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Viewpoints: Human Factors

Articles The Institute of Internal Auditors Oct 09, 2023

Dawn Jones

Risk & Financial Advisory Managing Director, Internal Audit, Deloitte

How do organizations view talent management risk?

Outside of organizations where “people are the product,” most have not given much thought to talent management when weighing enterprise risks. Historically, talent management risk considerations have been more narrowly focused on immediate concerns: succession planning for leaders, the financial and operational impacts of employee turnover, and employee safety. Rarely were they a source of discussion beyond the organization’s human resource function. 

However, in a post-pandemic world with workforce dynamics shifting, talent management risks are now part of the conversation at the executive leadership and board levels, as talent management becomes more of a strategic focus. C-suites and boards are now recognizing the importance of including these risks when making workforce decisions, and risk management functions are beginning to incorporate talent management in their risk discussions.

What factors contribute to talent management risk?

Traditional talent management risks — sourcing, attracting, developing, and retaining talent — are still important. However, employee expectations about when they work, where they work, and their development opportunities have shifted post-pandemic. In parallel, employees also have a greater desire for their employer’s values to align with their own. Employees may look at the actions their organization takes to create a diverse and inclusive culture, whether it is positively impacting the greater society and environment, and whether the organization is considerate of individual well-being. These factors have created or evolved risks for organizations. 

In response, it has become increasingly important for organizational enterprise risk frameworks to be more holistic and expansive, recognizing external risk factors within the technological, environmental, social, economic, and geopolitical landscape that are driving today’s talent management risks. Organizational risk frameworks also must account for the future of work and the changes in the “what, where, and how” of work.

How does the ability to manage this risk affect other risks?

In today’s world, nearly all enterprise risks have a human element. Technology risks already have a significant impact on the workforce — and those implications will continue to grow as we consider how technology influences how work gets done. Environmental and climate risks could impact how and where work gets performed, and where that workforce is located. Social risks can impact how employees feel about the organization and their work, as well as their sense of belonging. 

None of these risks occur in silos, and their interrelated nature and impacts must be considered in assessing priority and mitigation response to talent management. Doing so is not just a risk imperative, but also a business imperative. Today, it is about operational performance and having a competitive advantage in terms of talent. Looking out further, it may be the organization’s preparedness to continue to exist.

Mike Monahan

Principal, Grant Thornton

How can organizations expand their talent pool?

Organizations and entire industries need to challenge the traditional paradigms of what “skills” and “licenses” are foundationally necessary to deliver success. They need to look beyond a limited number of majors, credentials, or specific schools and instead prioritize skills, determination, and the willingness to learn. Nontraditional recruiting approaches, such as through community college pipelines, veteran advocacy organizations, and organizations focused on neurodivergent candidates can be essential pathways to finding unique talent. 

In the search for talent, it is important to examine the organization's current approaches and reflect honestly on existing barriers. For example, do academic expectations accurately reflect the performance needed to be successful? Are hiring managers willing to listen to someone’s story about how they got to where they are — rather than simply deploying technology that filters out talented people who could bring unique experience to the team? Organizations also must consider who is doing their recruiting and ascertain if recruiters are in line with the organization’s objectives for finding talent. 

What strategies help organizations recruit top talent?

Forward-thinking organizations are beginning the recruiting process earlier, marketing internal auditing to people who might not otherwise consider it. They are developing near-term and long-term objectives when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent — especially top diverse talent. By better understanding the preferences of target communities and conferring with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts, firms can fine-tune messages that resonate most with job candidates.

Recruiting globally or offering remote workforce options also can increase recruiting competitiveness. This requires organizations to be practiced in the technical and legal challenges of recruiting abroad and remotely. Moreover, organizations should ensure that the new hire experience of global colleagues focuses on more than just helping them move locations. To ensure a solid integration into the business, organizations should help workers incorporate into the community where they will live and work.

What strategies help retain employees?

While attrition rates are falling in some industries, others are not as lucky. Listening sessions can be a key ingredient in an organization’s efforts to enhance retention and care for its people. These discussions can lead an organization to redesign its benefits, programs, and reward approaches — focusing them on where professionals are in their personal lives. Some examples might be expanded mental health-care offerings, childcare or elder care backup support, online tutoring services for working parents, and adult education offerings beyond traditional classroom subjects. 

One critical element to help retain talent in the post-COVID workplace is personal connectedness. Organizations need to recognize that staying connected in a virtual environment is difficult, and leaders need to make connectivity a priority. 

Organizations can do this by redefining the physical workspace into one that isn’t just a place of work, but rather a space to connect and come together. Ultimately, innovative strategies boil down to time and whether organizations are willing to put in the time to commit to attracting, retaining, and motivating the people who truly make their business successful.

Relevant Guidance Resources

The Institute of Internal Auditors